Country football players, coaches and club officials say constant AFL rules tinkering is not practical for amateur competitions amid rumblings over the latest change some fear will make life even tougher for umpires.
- Under the new AFL rule, a player on the mark who moves from the spot gives away a 50-metre penalty
- Officials say amateur footy is “different” and the decongestion measure is not needed
- The AFL says it’s important to have the same rules at all levels
A new rule prohibiting players from moving in any direction while standing the mark has been a source of controversy at the game’s highest level, and is dividing country footy.
The rule is designed to address perceived congestion and increase scoring.
John Hall, president of Millewa Football League in north-west Victoria and south-west New South Wales, said the new rule had little relevance to country football.
“We’ve just got to do what we’re told … but I don’t think it’s going to improve the Millewa or any other country football league in any way whatsoever,” he said.
“Keep it in the AFL. It’s their job to learn and adjust to the rule changes.
A ‘different game’
Mr Hall said there should be different rules for the AFL and for amateur football.
“It’s a totally different game, so I don’t see how some of the rules are relevant,” he said.
“It’s going to cause a lot of 50-metre penalties. I hope games aren’t won or lost on these decisions.”
Wade Hancock, senior playing coach for NSW-based Wentworth Football Club, in the Sunraysia Football Netball League, said adjusting to new rules had become an annual concern.
“There are a few people that get frustrated with the fact that there are . . . rule changes every year,” he said.
“At a country level it’s a bit harder for umpires and players to adapt as quickly as full-time professionals.
“I don’t think all rules that come in at an AFL level have to be passed down to the country, but I guess they want a blanket rule at all levels for consistency.”
Umpiring ‘difficult enough as it is’
Rule changes could also place extra stress on umpires, said Scott Arnold, president of Minyip-Murtoa in the Wimmera Football Netball League.
“The umpiring group generally get hung out to dry a bit,” he said.
“I think the new rule potentially wouldn’t have come into place if it was up to the umpires, but they’ve been told they have to do it.
“They’ve got a difficult enough job as it is.”
Frank Marklew, who has umpired almost 900 games in the Wimmera, said the new rules would benefit country football, but it did make his job more difficult.
“It’s hard enough for us to keep our eyes everywhere anyway,” he said.
“It has made it a bit harder but I think after a few weeks, once everyone’s playing, it hopefully will become natural for players and for umpires.”
‘More appealing’ game
AFL Sunraysia’s Don Harley said the changes were worthwhile for country football.
“Game trends have shown a lot more congestion at every level,” he said.
“The rulemaking committee decided that this is a rule that needs to be brought in at all levels to try to speed the game up and restrict players’ ability to defend key angles that might serve to open the game up a little bit more.
While most rules are the same from AFL to amateur level, the deliberate rushed behind rule and a zone rule requiring six players in each third of the ground for the centre bounce, are not enforced in the regions.
Mr Harley said after a period of adjustment, players and umpires in country football would adapt to the new rule.
Sunraysia league president Paul Matheson said that, while he didn’t believe there was an issue that needed addressing in country football, it was important to have rules consistency at all levels of the sport.
“I sit on the fence,” he said.
“You do get frustrated with the rule changes, but I think it would also be more difficult if you didn’t have the same rules as the AFL you watch on television.
“Hopefully, everyone just has a bit of patience early on as we get used to it, and everyone understands it’s not the umpire’s fault.”